Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Fielding of US Army Driverless Technology will Save Many Lives in Convoys


(Photo : US Army) An AMAS convoy of the U.S. Army.

Driverless U.S. Army transport trucks using technologies similar to that used by Google in its autonomous cars will soon see service.

It's taken all of 14 years to convince the army that Lockheed Martin's "Autonomous Mobility Applique System" or AMAS is ready for frontline service. AMAS is a low-cost, low-risk autonomy kit for military logistics vehicles that provides driver warning/driver assist and leader-follower capabilities with a path to full autonomy.

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It's a multi-platform kit integrating low-cost sensors and control systems onto military vehicles to enable autonomous convoy operations.

Lockheed Martin says AMAS has been installed on at least nine vehicle types. The AMAS system has completed more than 55,000 hours of road time.

"It turns out that outside of full-scale conflict, one of the most dangerous things you can do in the Army is drive a truck," said Frank St. John, Lockheed Martin's vice president of tactical missiles.

"We're working right now with TARDEC (Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center) and TACOM (Army Tank-automotive & Armaments Command) to find a path to rapidly field some of this capability."

The three-part system consists of an environment sensor; actuators that move a vehicle and trigger the brakes and a central computer that processes sensor data and gives driving commands.

Demonstrations have proven the ability of AMAS to safely complete tasks such as obstacle avoidance; following the road; following a lead vehicle and maintaining a set distance between convoy vehicles.

Under development is software that will allow vehicles to find a specific unit and unload basic supplies such as food and water, then find their way to a dispatch location.

The first joint demonstration with TARDEC and Lockheed took place in January 2014 at Fort Hood, Texas. AMAS was used on M915 trucks and the Palletized Loading System flatbed vehicle in convoy configurations.

A few months from now will see AMAS take part in Army warfighting experiments, giving soldiers the opportunity to evaluate the technology in the field during normal training scenarios.

"At the end of that experiment, assuming that goes well, I'd look for some sort of early fielding -- 100 units, 200 units -- some sort of action being taken by TARDEC and TACOM to get it out into the field," said St. John.

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